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Learn About Audience-First Digital Advertising

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the biggest recent shifts in digital advertising.
  • Describe the role of programmatic advertising.
  • Identify the audience for digital advertising.
  • Explain why audience strategy is important.


Digital advertising and advertising technology have evolved significantly since their inception. In many cases, this holds true for the teams responsible for both this discipline and technology. In this module, we show you how these major trends affect you and your advertising teams and how you can build a digital advertising strategy to achieve success in a changing marketplace.

The Evolution of Digital Advertising

Let’s take a look at the biggest advertising industry changes over the last few years. Historically, a brand would conduct a handshake agreement to buy ads on a given website. This was later replaced by programmatic advertising or software that automates ad placement and purchase price on a brand's behalf. 

Gone are the days when brands just hoped that everyone on a specific website was in the market for their products. Savvy advertisers know that a campaign that includes everyone in a given demographic group (such as women age 25 to 35) or everyone who searches for given keywords (such as “best compact cars”) can certainly work. But they also know those broad groups are lacking important context. Just because someone is in the perfect demographic for your product doesn’t mean they actually want to buy it. And just because someone has searched for it doesn’t mean they’re considering a purchase.

What’s the solution? You can advertise based on where real people are in their buying journey with your products, services, and brand. For example, use anonymous online identities to reach people with ads based on which of your web pages, ads, or mobile pages they’ve visited. Alternatively, use CRM data to advertise based on their true business relationship with your brand.

A snow-covered mountain covered in flags, representing the different levels of identifying who to reach with advertising.

Marketing and Advertising Work Together

For many companies, advertising has long been separated from the rest of their marketing efforts, such as email or website campaigns. In addition, advertising and marketing teams within a single company haven’t always pooled their resources and collaborated. This means that the ability to use customer data to power advertising has been limited. Advertisers and marketers missed out on opportunities to connect digital advertising to the rest of the customer journey that people have with their brand.

Luckily, this isn’t true anymore!

Salesforce can automatically and securely connect the customer data that your marketing team has spent years carefully honing to targeted digital advertising efforts.

According to the Salesforce “Digital Advertising 2020” research report:

  • A majority of advertising and marketing departments now share common budgets and use the same team to manage digital marketing, build ad campaigns, and make technology purchasing decisions.
  • With most of the information they need in one place, advertisers can handle more digital advertising in-house. Nearly 60% of advertisers rely on internal staff to optimize ad spend for Facebook and Instagram, and 57% do the same for Google search.

Advertising Audience Strategy

Of the big five “W” questions—who, what, when, where, why—start your advertising planning with the “why.” Identify your advertising and marketing goals and then identify “who” is your audience. After all, if you don’t know whom you want to reach with your messages, how can you determine what the message needs to be, or when and where it can be the most effective?

Your audience is the segment of customers or prospective customers that you want to advertise to. It is derived from three primary types of data.

  • CRM data: This includes information from your email marketing efforts, customer service team, or marketing automation systems. This data would include information like a customer's email address or phone number. In the United States, this is called personal information and in Europe, it’s called personal data. It’s captured in systems such as Marketing Cloud Engagement or Service Cloud.
  • Online anonymous data: This includes people who visit your websites, use your mobile apps, or view your advertisements.
  • Second-party data: This is anonymous data that a brand agrees to share with other advertisers for their mutual benefit while honoring the consent of its own users.

Depending on the data your brand has available, you can focus your efforts on your own anonymous web and mobile data, your CRM and email-based data, or a combination of both.

However, for the purposes of this module, we refer to an audience as one segment of customers that you use to create one target audience on one ad platform.

Devising an Audience Strategy

We’ve all been (unfortunately) annoyed by badly targeted spray-and-pray advertising that’s not relevant to us nor personalized in any way. Adding that personalization is where audience segmentation and strategy come into play. In order to increase return on ad spend, advertisers must target the right audience with the right message on the right channels.

Remember the “why”—what use cases are you focusing on that build value for your business? Here are a few key questions that can get you started.

  • What are my key advertising goals?
  • Am I trying to acquire new customers?
  • Am I focused on nurturing my leads and prospects?
  • Do I need to engage existing customers?
  • Do I need to optimize my advertising budget by focusing on high-value customers?
  • A mix? All of the above?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you can start to build audiences based on three key factors.

  • Categories (product or service offerings)
  • Subsegments (customer behaviors, purchase history, demonstrated interests, membership)
  • Ad channels: Google (including Search, Shopping, Youtube, and Gmail), Facebook (Instagram), LinkedIn, Pinterest, and/or Twitter.)

Graphic representation of strategy of marketer goals, using Salesforce data within various channels to reach new customers.

Just like you wouldn’t send the same email offer to everyone in your subscriber base and expect to get great open, click, or conversion rates, you can’t expect to send the same ad to everyone and get a good return on ad spend. The more you know your customers, engage them in a relevant way, and provide personalized content, the better your results.

In the next unit, we look at how to take these ideas and use them to acquire new customers.


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